Had the military’s senior officers spoken up for those in the ranks when it counted—before marching mutely off to war in Iraq—the few civic-minded dissenters in uniform who are now speaking out would have had no reason to do so.
Gregory D. Foster
National Defense University
Andrew Bacevich writes: “To assuage uneasy consciences, the many who do not serve proclaim their high regard for the few who do.” I find his cynicism hurtfully shocking. Some of us express our high regard for our soldiers because we hold them in high regard. As the sister of a National Guard soldier who went to Iraq this year precisely because he’s willing to die for the principle of civilian leadership while we at home sort this mess out politically, I can state that my high regard for such a man has nothing to do with an uneasy conscience.
Also, I take issue with his assertion that soldiers should be limited to making themselves heard through voting. In modern politics one’s point of view is worth nothing if it cannot be publicized or advocated collectively. Furthermore, our constitutional rights are expressly not limited to voting. Rather they extend to freedoms of expression, especially where political speech is concerned. To constrain only soldiers, among citizens, from expressing their views is tantamount to disenfranchising them.
Andrew Bacevich replies:
Gregory Foster wants soldiers to involve themselves in “the high politics of statecraft,” apparently assuming that soldiers will see things his way. But there’s no guarantee that the politicking soldiers will share Foster’s enlightened views.
Since writing “Warrior Politics,” I learned of another embryonic soldiers’ lobby, this one the brainchild of a naval officer currently serving in Iraq. Calling itself the “Appeal for Courage,” this initiative (www.appealforcourage.org) is petitioning Congress to “halt any calls for retreat” in Iraq. With that end in mind, the 2,000-plus soldiers who’ve endorsed this petition urge their “political leaders to actively oppose media efforts which embolden my enemy while demoralizing American support at home.” In short, they advocate censorship—an example of what we can anticipate from a politically active military.
I apologize for delivering a hurtful shock to Emily Miller. Apparently, she’s keen to allow soldiers the same rights as citizens not in uniform. If she gets her way, we won’t have an army; we’ll have a rabble. Absent the constraints that she finds offensive, the discipline that is a precondition to military effectiveness will vanish.
The Gift of the Soviets
In his review of Norman Davies’s Europe at War, 1939–1945 (“Stalin’s Gift,” May Atlantic), Benjamin Schwarz writes, “At its most intense, the war in the West was fought between 15 Allied and 15 Wehrmacht divisions.” While I have nothing but admiration for the efforts of the Red Army against Nazi Germany, Schwarz’s description of the Allied war effort in the West is incorrect. During the Battle of France, there were many times more than 15 divisions involved on both sides—the Battle of the Bulge, for example, included about 35 Allied and 26 German division-sized units. Schwarz also ignores a larger point, which is that the Western Allies were engaged in a multifront war, whereas the Soviets were fighting on only one front. U.S. forces, for example, were engaged in several theaters simultaneously, including France, Italy, China, and the Pacific.